There Is No Greater Love

There Is No Greater Love

 [We welcome guest blogger Rev. Jim Taylor to talk about Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr, founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.] 

This has been a meaningful Lenten experience, helped along by Fr. Richard Rohr’s insightful Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent. Like all good theologians of the church, Fr. Richard has led us back “to the sources” (Erasmus). I feel myself drawn, once again, into the deeper story in and behind the words and paragraphs of Scripture—not so much me reading it, but it reading me 

During this Holy Week, I am captivated by the title question for Wednesday of Holy Week in Wondrous Encounters (page 130): “How Much Did Jesus Know and When Did He Know It?” For me, the inquiry and reflection forms a gravity well—drawing me in and grounding me—into the text of Matthew 26:14-25. 

To fully enter the mystery and glory of Holy Week, I found myself imagining what might have gone through Jesus’ head and heart at this momentous time. What was he thinking and feeling as he dined with the Apostles at the Last Supper? What went through his head when he looked at Judas? What did he feel when he picked up the bread and broke it and then drank of the cup? What was it like for Jesus to anticipate an agonizing death? These questions produced an inner dialogue in me of what might have been some of Jesus’ own thoughts: 

As I have loved you, love each other 

My final hours descend upon me. I crave to exhaust them with my friends—to be close to them, to hear their voices, to share one more meal. I need them with me before the suffering begins. Later, I’ll pray. 

 I welcome John’s easy way of loving me. Delight! Unsolicited, Judas eyes me with impatience and displeasure—betrayal lurks in his glance. Sorrow! The contrast is stark and severe. Grief pierces my heart. Terror is contained in this moment. Doubts linger like shadows at the edges of my mind. Beneath the crust of my conviction, there is uncertainty. 

"The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci

 I seize the symbols at hand—a cup of wine, some bread—and reveal the hope of a present-future of healing grace. My body will be broken; my blood poured out. My Father will unmask all the violence and injustice and hatred through a willing sacrifice—smothering evil by absorbing it with love! Remember this! 

 I will die. There is no surprise. I yearn to overcome the dread. My dearly cherished friends will abandon me. Alone! Judas is not the first to betray me—nor the last. I caution Peter in vain.  Each must discern that mercy is the imperative in redemption, not righteousness. Have I made it obvious to them? Maybe, if I had more time… 

 I can feel the anguish, like a volcano of pain, expanding from somewhere deep within me. I can’t prevent myself, erupting, “One of you will betray me!” It’s one last chance for Judas. I wish he’d drop his guard and let me in. Why not?! My complete desire is to love him! It’s too late. My heart is weeping. If only there was another way. My body broken, my blood poured out. 

 Soothingly, I become aware of my Father’s heart in mine. I’ll try again, “I’m giving you a new command: As I have loved you, love each other. This will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” An impression forms subconsciously: There is no greater love than to give your life for another. 

An encounter of “word made flesh”

My spiral into the scriptural text this Holy Week seems to be what Richard intended: “not so much information as an experience of transformation, not so much explanation as Encounter itself.” Scripture and my

Photo by Jim Taylor

 imagination lead me to an encounter with the “word made flesh.” As always is the case in true encounter, I know and am known. I draw close to Jesus’ own humanity—and I find him loving mine. 

  How are you celebrating Holy Week?

 

 

 *****
Rev. Jim Taylor is the pastor of Mosaic Community Church in Seguin, Texas. Mosaic is an emerging church, which recently remodeled 6,500 square feet to add a medical clinic offering full medical and dental services in order for the working poor to have access to affordable health care. Mosaic Community Church also developed a Community Garden to share fresh, organic fruits and vegetables with those who are hungry. Jim is also a Weaver with Men As Learners and Elders (M.A.L.Es), a ministry of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

 
 

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  • Stephen Gambill

    I’ve had a fairly tumultuous Lent, with work taking me out of town in March and April, working in-between on the riddled walls of an apartment I planned to move into while cleaning out my own space, only to have the rental fall through, feeling at some crossroads and struggling with my own life direction and purpose at “retirement” age. It’s been hard to focus on anything, much less anything “spiritual”. A friend had given me Wondrous Encounters awhile back, and I’ve read in it, only a little, during Lent. I think it’s helped me find at least the edges of a calm center, bringing me back into the spaciousness-between-the-lines, grace-filled theology of Richard Rohr. Jim, as a pastor, husband, father, and more, a busier man than I am, has had a deeper well – a gravity well – of experience with this book than I. I don’t know who it was (Jung?) who said (rough paraphrase) that imagination is our central port of entry into the world of spirit. Jim’s imaginative plunge into the gravity well of Jesus’s thoughts in his final hours makes me long, in the midst of my own little upheavals, wrestlings, delights and sorrows, to also “become aware of my Father’s heart in mine.”

  • Sandra Gravitt

    Jim,
    I like your sensitive, imaginative view. I have been reading WONDROUS ENCOUNTERS during Lent and it sparks some interesting questions. Have a blessed Easter.

  • Jostrom

    Jim,
    You and I have shared a lot of great coversations, and one thing I have always taken away from them is how important it is to love someone right were they are at in their journey through this life. After reading your post, it is all I can think about of what Jesus was thinking in his last hours. That still in everything he was going through with sacrificing himself for us, he was able to LOVE his disciples right where they were. He knew every action they would take and still in his hour of need he was thinking of and loving them!!!

    Thank you Lord for your sacrifice on the cross and for the assurance that you give us, just as you gave one of the criminals on the cross….one day “we will be with you in paradise”

  • Don Traylor

    Oh, that I could feel the power that my Lord sends forth. I sense it most often when I am small and of little consequence to those around me. I feel blessed that my past has been forgiven and mercy is poured upon me over and over. I thank Jim for taking an opportunity to post words that ring true for him and feel some of the same thoughts within. Even my Lord asked for the burden to be removed. I pray that my heart will open and see the true nature of a loving God.

  • Fr. Scott

    What a wonderful Lent! So many voices made it possible. Jim’s voice is one of those many. Knowing Jim as I do, with so many deeply spiritual experiences together,he has given me a picture to go with the voice.
    Pax et Bonum!

  • Pastor John Roberts

    Jim–thanks for this awesome insight. I loved the possible thoughts of Jesus—both the human and divine all rubbing together. For me–Jesus resurrection continues as His broken body continues to heal the broken lives all around our little town of Geronimo. Most notably is a guy I know who is now 90 days sober after years of addiction. He relates so well to feeling broken and sharing the cup of redemption from Jesus. In fact–I think just as Jesus told the group of mourners at Lazarus grave to unbind him and take the grave clothes off him—I have come to see the church as the unbinding station. We exist to unbind those held in the “death grips” of addiction, guilt, defeating habits, resentments, disease, poverty, and all the things that keep us from the abundant life.

    Jesus choice to die is the greatest act of loving one another Jim–as you point out. We know from Philo and Josephus, that there were 18 other wannabe Messiahs in Jesus life time–the difference was all the other Messiahs picked up swords to battle Rome…Jesus defeated Rome not with the sword but with love…and he defeated death as well.

    Jim–thanks for helping to continue to Unbind those who are still wearing the grave clothes…Peace John Roberts

  • the noble knave

    Like you have expressed JT, my week was experiential beyond form and process beyond content. I use -beyond- because the form and content while new for me, was valuable and necessary and has been with us and available since The Ancient of Days.

    By way of chaverim חברים , a Seder meal, Torah/Tenach/B’ritHadasha teachings I was ushered into a picturesque drama of the passion of deliverance — sharing ancient expressions of Creator love. A portrait of everlasting kindness, hope, and loveship… culling clean from unclean, righteous from unrighteous, Adoni’s ways from the ways of those who would not have this way… drawing parent to child, sister to brother, I to I Am, spirit to Spirit.

    The call to meditation was similar to the invitation found in this short story:

    Once a rabbi was walking along the sea-side road in Galilee. He had a few moments alone which is rare for rabbis, so he was doing what all rabbis do when they are alone: he was reciting the scriptures. He was so deep into reciting the scriptures that he missed the fork in the road that took him to Capernaum. Instead, he ended up at the Roman fort that guarded the sea-side road. He was startled out of his meditation when he found himself at the fort gate and heard a voice call down, “Who are you? And what are you doing here?” The rabbi looked up to see a stern looking centurion on the wall. The rabbi called back, “How much do they pay you to ask me these questions?” Surprised, the centurion paused, “Two denari a week Jew! Why?!” The rabbi replied, “I’ll give you double if you’ll stand outside my home and ask me those questions every day when I leave!”

    Begging: Who are you? And why are you here? I mean really. Cut away the honors and the degrees and the careers. Who are you? And why are you here?

    Through memorial, I rediscovered kinship with my Beloved in Hebrew expressions given by The Father of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. I encountered Yeshua as a very Jewish man in a very Jewish culture teaching tried and true with only a glance at anything new (Jeremiah 31:31-34). One who was devoted, a Rabbi, to all of the Historical expressions of His Father given to be kept as G-D authored (My Sabbath(s), My Passover, My Festivals, My commandments (Matt. 19:17), and My sacrifices (being that there was a Temple in the 1st century), all expressions of Creator Love. This time for me brought clarity to my faith in there being no contradiction between me living out these annual memorials (rehearsals) as practical expressions and my born again beliefs (John 1:9-13)… on the contrary, they are wed and intended that no one put asunder. A Holy week indeed!

    Consider these sources:

    Restoring The Jewishness of The Gospel; David H. Stern, Ph.D.
    Jesus The Jewish Theologian; Brad H. Young
    The Hebrew Yeshua Vs. The Greek Jesus; Nehemia Gordon

    http://www.lionlamb.net
    http://www.jerusalemperspective.com/
    http://www.jcstudies.com/

    Bro. JSharp

  • Lisab

    To everyone who posted comments:

    Thank you for all the heartFULL and mindful discussion!

    If there is true Encounter, it always leads to open conversation with others. That’s the intention of Encounter, to bring us into relationship with the other—God and the rest of Creation. Good conversation precedes and pervades healthy community. The kind of open dialogue found here—dialogue that is exploring and non-scripted; and yet, full of hope, is what is missing in much of our interaction in the West.

    The best kind of contemplation results in conversation. Richard Rohr called us back to the scriptural text, knowing that the text will always call us back to one another!

    Your comments are, for me, even more stimulating and engaging than the blog reflection itself! Of course, this will be the case in wholesome public discourse. The whole is greater than the parts!

    May the conversation build into healing community, and may our gathering together lead to redemptive action throughout the world!

    Peace, Jim Taylor

  • Bstrangetx

    Jim Taylor is an inspirational man for me. I appreciate his ability here to go beyond his own ego boundaries and let the Truth be what it is. He informs my own understanding that Jesus is fully human, to include a human brain. Too often, religious people seem to attribute a “God brain” to him. His “God thoughts” were processed in a human brain, just as ours are. But Jesus interpreted aright, unlike me. Thanks for the blessing, Jim.